Horrible beauty and (un)easy submission: Melodrama and the gothic in Calvary
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Stewart, M. (2017) Horrible beauty and (un)easy submission: Melodrama and the gothic in Calvary. Studies in European Cinema, 16 (2), pp. 108-125.
This article examines Calvary (2014) as a gothic and melodramatic text - as an expression, more specifically, of pathetic melodrama and the Anglo-Irish gothic. As a pathetic melodrama, Calvary presents us with an apparently impassable situation, at the level of both the diegetic narrative and the historical present. It also exhibits considerable suffering and pathos. These melodramatic features are articulated via affect in familiar ways, so that the film reproduces the moral occult and a regressive nationalism. The article argues, though, that Calvary's excesses are best understood as specific expressions of pathological melodrama, the bog gothic and the Cartesian gothic. In this respect, it is argued that Calvary's ostensive - dense and allusive - dialogue is a form of speaking suffering - a dark, but potentially productive game. All of Calvary's affective excesses, it is argued, are critical entities - ghostly witnesses, explosions and violent collisions of mind and body, which nonetheless cohere around particular histories, places and events. However much, then, Calvary may seem to accede to melodramatic redemption or gothic clich, it is better understood, it is argued, as a form of submission - a necessary giving in and facing up to historical trauma and shame.